Giving up on saving the world

Thanks, sir.

Worst case scenario I just stockpile resources, start it as a small live-in asshat-free Mondragon+Valve hybrid and we expand from there, right?

It’s still a smidge sad seeing all these people giving up on doing useful things when there’s (at least one) solution out there that’s not getting a chance because everyone’s focused on doing minor variants of the same ineffective things over and over again.

Still, we get this in the hands of someone like Elon Musk and we rewrite the world pretty quickly . . . and then we pull all the good folks from here in, after all, we’ve got privacy, copyright, patent law and all the other big hot buttons here nailed in one.

If we have to create a working proof of concept before we do this then that’s what we have to do. It’s the least efficient way, but it will work in the end.

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The world isn’t going anywhere, nor is our civilization, nor our lifestyle… it’s all just changing, we dont live in a static universe.
Should we stop changing to more sustainable energy sources because “it’s all over”? No of course we won’t, theres a bunch of money in there and it just makes sense. We are fantastic at being inventors, finding problems and coming up with crazy ideas to solve them.
If we didn’t know about ‘climate change’ as the media describes it, there would still be folks out there trying to make more efficient air conditioners, better forms of irrigation and solutions to all the other problems out there… probably eventually take care of the global warming just not on the timeline we should.
As temperatures and ocean levels rise lots of places will not be nice, but there is a huge area of the northern hemisphere that will become much more temperate and better for agriculture.
So, even if we can’t stop climate change, we also are very committed to trying and that won’t stop either. They’ll meet in the middle somewhere.
So I wont be digging my apocalypse shelter and just save my money for a nice electric car when it’s more economical. Solar panels not just because they will help save the world, but that they are just cool.


Our current civilization will certainly change. I strongly believe that the human race will continue though, in one fashion or another, and that all of our struggles, creations and experiences will not have been in vain, not as a matter of faith, but a matter of course. There may yet be ways that we not yet widely skilled in, that could assist us in seeding other worlds. There could be ways to merge our consciousness with machines powered by the sun for as long as that star may last. We may discover other dimensions. We may still learn of other beings, from other worlds, that may have a new idea. We do not know what we do not know. We do know that there are gaps in our collective knowledge, and that we have made serious mistakes in our own collective upbringing as a steward species charged with the care of an amazing living planet. This planet is still alive. So are we. Think about that.

There are good and bad kinds of dark, just like there are good and bad kinds of light. This was the bad kind of dark, not the kind that protects but the kind that consumes and drowns you. It felt as if the entire world was engulfed in this place that was intensely dark, and focused into a kind of false but convincing clarity. Hiding inside that false clarity was a belief that this horrible state of mind was all there really was to the world when you stopped pretending that there was nothing bad going on.

Along with this state went a sense that I was doing the world a favor by constantly immersing myself in it. But while the information I was giving out was important, it was tainted everywhere by this state of mind. I felt like I was telling the world the truth, but it was only one part of the truth. Because the real truth allows for the possibility of fighting this stuff and winning. But the truth I was telling had all kinds of warping around the edges.

I felt like I was lifting away a curtain of ignorance among most people as to exactly how awful the (human, social) world can really be to anyone who isn’t valued. And in a way, I was. But I was not lifting away a second curtain. Behind that second curtain was everything good in the world, that remains hidden from most people as well. Behind that curtain is every possibility for love, compassion, cooperation, and hope. Not the fuzzy greeting card version, but something so powerful, fierce, and solid that it can evaporate all the awful stuff that lies behind the first curtain if enough people act on it.

Amanda Baggs, autism blogger

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Yes, I believe they are called “Buddhists”.

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You know, now you’ve kind of got me thinking.

I wonder if part of the problem is people generally seem to have three different reactions to big problems

  1. Angrily want to fight against the system/destroy it/start a revolution
  2. Want to get away/hide with just you and a few like minded folks
  3. Apathy.

The whole ‘subversively exploit the system and use it’s own flaws (and our advantages) against it’ might be something that only a small number of people naturally digest and gravitate towards without a lot of helping hands along the way.

I know the majority of friends and such I have that ‘get it’ took quite a while to really wrap their minds around things, while those that got it right away like you did have pretty quirky personalities and I’m starting to see some strange overlap!


The “get away/hide” is not mutually exclusive with your proposal. The “away” can be an enclave of like-minded individuals, WITHIN the system, exploiting its flaws for the group’s benefit, possibly producing data and/or materials further empowering other people to either join or build their own in-system enclaves.

“Getting away” does not have to involve a physical distance.

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Oh, totally agreed! That just doesn’t seem to be the most common approach.

Most of the efforts/resources are going to what is IMHO the worst possible solution…working to influence a system from within that gives the advantages to all the wrong people and for which we have ample evidence gives poor results.

An insane amount of money goes into politics, lots of it donated by good people like those here in this forum. Occasionally those efforts result in a tiny, incremental improvement over what we would have had were they not implemented (Despite his significant failings, Obama was probably a better bet than Romney), but the benefits for the resources spent are pretty pathetic.

Then of course we have the revolutionaries, people who are fighting hard against the system, protesting, calling for a second constitutional convention, those hoping for a worker’s uprising, that sort of thing. They overlap with the above group a lot but they’re generally pushing for a huge change that requires a huge chunk of the population to cooperate…which happens rarely.

Describe it how you will…no bang for the buck, negative return on investment…take your pick. The end result is a lot of wasted effort and passion.

And, to be honest, the idea of trying to force everybody else in a country/region to agree is clearly suboptimal.

So there’s billions upon billions of dollars wasted and hordes of people exhausted, both if which could have been spent far, far better.

On the other end of the spectrum we have all the intentional communities…dancing rabbit and such, as well as a bunch of (generally) short lived mini-utopias. To give them credit at least they understand Dunbar’s number,

However, while they often offer better lives to their members, they don’t have much ability to expand and when they hit the point where they’re conflicting with the local political system they’re invariably bargaining from a position of weakness.

“Getting away” does not have to involve a physical distance.


There’s a tiny few of us who are looking at an alternative approach, using the legal shell of a corporation to create a collection of diverse semi-overlapping self governing entities where we draw a firm line at basic civilized behavior (and I think we’ve defined the basics well enough, it’s not that hard) and give everyone who can take that step the opportunity to have control over their own lives in a very positive way.

All of it while using existing legal constructs and not asking anybody else to change for us. We gobble up the unemployed, the hopeful, the orphans, whoever is willing to be a good person and contribute to a greater goal. There’s lots of people like that, aren’t there?

As @Kimmo pointed out quite some time ago, the approach is powerful because it depopulates the system. We set people free by offering them a job and turning employment into peaceful, productive citizenship. Of course people are still citizens of their home nation (so if they turn out to be horrible people we can always ‘release them’).

As a bonus, thanks to Citizen’s United and all those rulings people are complaining about, this approach still allows us to influence local politics just like we could as individual citizens. We could easily gobble up tens of millions of people and primary Stewart/Colbert vs. Colbert/Stewart by all voting in lockstep.

THAT is how you change everything. Not in decades, centuries, or never…but in years, months, or now.

Besides, it’s not like anything vaguely similar has ever been tried, yet only tiny variants of past failures get chances


Tell that to the global south right now… The Victorians thought they were doing pretty well, while they pillaged their colonies. As Mike Davis said, the victorian era looked like a funeral pyre to the colonies. There is a reason why millennial movements pop up (which we have had a fair amount of in recent years), and it’s not because all is well.

I wasn’t surprised that this article made me uncomfortable- it’s taken me this long to read it!- And I was watching my own reactions pretty closely when I did. There’s some pretty important truths here, buried under the outrage.

He’s absolutely right that environmentalism as a movement has accumulated a large number of sacred cows, of questions that must not be asked. The (realistic) fear I pick up, is that unless we drop our superficial grumbles with each other, the whole group will devolve into a circular firing squad of ineffective grumblers.

At what point does this pragmatic choice become drinking the Cool-Aid? I think he goes too far in completely withdrawing, but I am hard pressed to pinpoint the place where we part ways.

Usually when I’m depressed by this kind of muddle, it helps to distinguish the prescriptive activist from the diagnostic activist. You can wear both hats, of course, just not at the same time.

My diagnostic here is that some richer whiter people have been living high on the hog for longer than anyone can remember, and cannot imagine living the way most people live. To step away from that unexamined privilege feels like the end of the world, and it’s less painful to imagine everyone’s world ending, than to going back to living the way most people do.

The only short term prescription for this problem, is to learn how to grieve. Maybe when the grief period is over, we can actually begin to start digging out.


effin’ A.

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I think that’s really quite unkind. I do not believe he is pleased about the outcome, or the “occasion for authenticity”… but rather is pleased about the serenity that comes with acceptance.

I’d say you begrudge him. And that’s good. Its an uncomfortable reality that he has a very good handle on. We -are- screwed. That said, I believe it is a feature, not a bug.

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One of the depressing things about the future is that if technology doesn’t provide the way out, by that point it will have removed a lot of the other options. For example, many parts of the world are going through groundwater and topsoil far faster than they can be replaced. At this rate, many important sources will be effectively exhausted within decades. If the land stops producing enough food or there’s not enough water for a region, that will cause knock on effects as people leave for other areas. People who live in big cities like New Delhi won’t be able to grow their own food or get their own water if supplies fail, and as long as there’s a deficit on this scale along with economic growth that will put more pressure on the water levels, it’s hard not to predict a time when there will no longer be sufficient resources to supply the population.

It’s certainly possible to imagine a better allocation of resources that may prevent disaster in time, but it probably isn’t going to happen enough, and certainly not everywhere. If there’s no technological miracle in time and a city is left without an affordable water supply, you can’t even go back to pre-industrial methods to survive - you have to find somewhere new to live (which probably won’t have an abundance of resources itself). What happens when millions of people in coastal cities have to leave because of the rising sea levels? By the time it really affects people, it will be far too late to do anything and the scale will be bigger than we can imagine. This has the potential to topple governments and destabilize regions, which will make it even more difficult to manage the problem. Added to this, we probably won’t have the easy access to energy and other resources that we do now, making it even more difficult to make a difference. I’d really like to believe that it will be difficult but we’ll make it through somehow, but I think our odds are not good. Seeing the general political resistance to almost any environmental initiative with teeth and the growing right wing opposition to immigration even with a relatively small amount of pressure, I’m not confident that humanity will reach the level necessary to deal with this crisis. I’m sure humanity will survive, but not as we know it.

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Precisely the kind of anthropocentric, Chicago-school claptrap that got us into this mess in the first place. And even if you ignore the rest of the planet and concentrate only on the the vermin killing it at an unprecedented rate, I find it incredible that anyone who claims to have their eyes open can see us getting our shit together anytime soon.

People will adapt.

To what, a poisonous wasteland ruled by an all-seeing corporatocracy?

Yeah, great.


Technically, cities can grow their own food. High-efficiency solid-state lighting does quite wonders, and the efficiency of resource use (water, nutrients…) is much higher than with conventional farming. With no degradation of soil as none is used.

Only energy is needed, which can be supplied with thorium-cycle reactors.


Of course it does, you just need to think outside the box a little.

I give you…the wearable holodeck!

We’re almost there, it’s just not in precisely the direction people have been pointing, and once we have it the vast majority of humanity will have a greatly reduced need for things and access to productivity-improving interfaces I honestly can’t begin to imagine, and I’m pretty creative.

No fancy brain interfaces needed, no real technological advancements at all, just a different way of assembling what we already have and some refinements that are well along paths we’re already following.

It’s one of those ‘obvious in retrospect’ things.

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BTW, do you have any idea about an embedded computer board that is able to process several video streams in realtime? Or is it rather a task for a FPGA board acting as a custom-made USB camera combining data from several image sensor chips into one frame (not THAT difficult, I reckon)?

CCDs work by sending a pulse that “exposes” the cells, then sending sequences of pulses to shift registers that shift each row to the subsequent row (and the end one to the row buffer) and then clock out each pixel from the row buffer, converting the array of pixels to an analog output stream. (Or several streams for parallel readout.) That then goes through ADC (which itself can be more than 8bit and facilitate at least some of the HDR capabilities). A dumb CCD with suitable clock generator then can provide a monochrome analog video without much other electronics. If attached to ADC and other electronics, it can provide image directly to a computer. With a FPGA it should be relatively easy to pack e.g. four simultaneously acquired images of 640x480 to one 1280x960. The two underneath can be even from the same CCD, acquired sequentially with different “shutter speed”; with 12bit ADC in the mix we can get quite a lot of HDR. Combine the two frame halves together, get a 1280x480 image, feed it through OpenGL to apply the barrel distortion to the left and right half, and feed to Oculus Rift. (Resolutions are suggested to be higher for a real application.)

For added pizzazz, combine several image sources to one realtime image - RGB camera, night vision (“infragreen” as I love calling it), thermal imaging; generating false-color image in real time with the best chosen style/mapping for the best situational awareness in the given moment.

For underwater work, overlay video with synthetic imagery from a sonar array, providing a 3d wireframe model of the surrounding environment, allowing work even in muddy water with zero visibility.

The missing cheap off-the-shelf parts are a fast enough embedded computer board (I believe this is not so difficult to find, there will be tradeoffs between power consumption and computing power but that will be solved in the future “on its own”, multichannel video input (likely has to be a FPGA board as if there’s anything off-the-shelf it will be priced out of non-corporate world, and multichannel analog input/output (for the mentioned sonar array), implementable in a similar way on FPGA. The USB-audio and USB-video specs seem to be just perfect for this and the standard compatibility should further simplify the work by not having to port kernel driver to different OSes and architectures because the generic drivers are already there.

Thoughts, comments?

…and the HDR welding helmet is something to WAAAANT!

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Ooh, clever. I was actually thinking purely commercial quality (it’s not like the idea isn’t investor-friendly) but you’re right in that FPGAs might be an excellent way to stage things while waiting to get enough resources to put together a proper fab.

Obviously people don’t want to be walking around with a bulky Oculus Rift type thing on their heads, but that’s completely unnecessary since we’ve got gasp wires (or fiber optics) and we could accomplish the same thing without being so unweildy, so something small you put in a backpack could easily drive the first couple of steps along the way from a visual standpoint, and that way you could really crank up the Resolution and FPS without having to worry about draining too much power. We’d probably be talking about multiple layers anyway depending on what we’re doing at the time (even if we start without fancy translucent OLEDs and just go the eSight route we’d still be using one channel to provide a picture of what the eyes would be normally seeing and other channels for the HUD/Augmented Reality elements)

When you tie in the full 3-D touch elements (which is really just low-level haptics and technology similar to what we’ve got going into exoskeletons…but backwards (and therefore requiring far less bulk)) then everything suddenly comes together. The whole ‘let’s project things into space and somehow expect people to interact with ghosts’ is a complete dead-end and I’ll be glad when we stop wasting so many resources in that direction.

As a bonus, it’s essentially self-powering. The haptic/touch elements feed off of resistance, which means you’ve got something to capture and convert to energy. We’d want some sort of battery for when somebody just wants to sit back and watch a movie, but even if we never get a supercapacitor we’d still be able to charge up just by interacting with imaginary things (or walking, squeezing a ball, whatever)

And yeah, the helmet is freakin’ brilliant. The whole ‘using multiple cameras to gather data from multiple angles and weaving together an image that no human or camera could EVER see’ is pure genius. When they threw in that HUD/Guide thing that was just piling on the awesome. Total Sploosh.

Nice to see someone else seeing the potential :slight_smile: It doesn’t solve everything, but it sure as heck solves a lot of things and frees up resources/man hours to take care of the remaining food/shelter bits.

I don’t mind wearing odd hardware. Screw the people, I am far out enough of the society that I don’t feel bound by their notions of “normalcy”. Screw them and their opinions. So Oculus Rift it can be. (More likely, CastAR for augmented reality stuff, though. Not sure about full-immersion mediated reality yet.) Lighter hardware, less loading the neck and head, is however preferred. Microdisplays are a good bet for the future here; either miniature DLP projectors (like CastAR does), or LCD-on-silicon (or so); to a degree, the smaller the cheaper to make, the less material used. Optics then can make it “big”.

Not sure about suitability of haptics. If exoskeletons, then I’d go for a full-scale powered one. Hints (piezo, vibration, electric impulses) do the same job as more-force feedback ones for lower cost and complexity.

Power harvesting, from motion and other stuff, is still somewhat immature tech. Promising but so far I’d go for batteries, unless micropower stuff like sensors is needed. Self-powering is something to strive for but as of now I’d not consider it too viable.

Re more cameras and scene reconstruction: one word: telepresence! You can even scale this a lot up or down and work with a big mecha when building a bridge, or with micromanipulators when hacking a chip die, and still with the same VR setup. (Better force feedback can be actually useful here, and the cost/complexity/bulk of a partial exoskeleton makes sense here.)

The potential is impossible to not see! I am waiting for this development since early 90’s. (Actually, I think about augmented reality since I saw the Terminator 1 movie. Scary how fast the time flies!)


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